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Alina Peter & Michael Wachelhofer (Cornerstone)

Interview with Alina Peter & Michael Wachelhofer from Cornerstone
by Justin Wittenmeier at 12 April 2017, 8:29 AM

 Metal Temple, in addition to obviously covering metal bands, also deals a lot with hard rock and AOR bands.  One such band, CORNERSTONE, has left quite the impression on us and many other reviewing outlets throughout the world.  After getting signed in 2008, this Austrian rock machine has gone thru some changes but has released consistently great music.

Their newest album, “Reflections,” is quite the atmospheric and melodic rock and roll record.   We gave the album an 8/10 saying, among other things, “Every song on the record is catchy and to the point; its obvious that they want some broader appeal and I really hope they get it—the music on this album is better than anything I’ve heard on radio in years.”  Metal Temple recently caught up with vocalist Alina Peter and bassist/keyboards/song writer Michael Wachelhofer to talk about everything from covers to making being unsexy work very well for them. 

I assume you and your brother formed CORNERSTONE? How did it come to fruition? I assume you both grew up with music being a very important part of your lives, even before the band was an idea. Was being a band together something you both always wanted to do and just went for it from the beginning?

Michael: Steve and I pretty much grow up with MTV, especially in the 90’s there was a ton of great music out there… R.E.M., THE CURE, SOUL ASYLUM, and so on. When we started the band, we mainly did covers of those bands, but slowly worked some originals into our set. Our first tunes were ”Changed” or “Leave“, but they are definitely children of their time - you may find those songs on our first album “Head Over Heels“. Because we also listened to more “matured” music like ALAN PARSONS or TOTO, we decided to write something in that direction as well, and those are the songs, that survived over the years: ”Ready To Go”, ”Fade Away“, ”Regret”… we play them at the concerts quite often, even today. Steve grew up with the heavier edge of music, METALLICA, GUNS ‘n ROSES, BODYCOUNT, … I come from the AOR-side of the street. The mixture out of those influences is the sound of CORNERSTONE. Music was always there, and it was great music, with which we grew up.

I mentioned it in the review, but the songs have an atmosphere that lends itself to be really enjoyed at night. Was the album written like this on purpose? I noticed the cover art is of a nighttime scene…

Alina: No it wasn’t written on purpose like that but when we thought about the songs, the feelings and the story behind it, we find it a perfect fit to take the nighttime scene as a cover art. Of course, there were some “night influences”, for example the idea of our second single, ”Northern Light”, was created while Michael was driving in a car at night and he tried to get this emotion and idea in the song, so after your question it can be said that he did a great job on that.

Michael: Thx, Alina (laughing) as far as I remember, I wrote most of the songs nighttime, so maybe this was an influence (laughing). But it happened accidentally, not on purpose. The only song I wrote during the day was “Believe in Me”, and I guess you can hear that, but there is definitely a nighttime-feeling at the rest of the songs, so there is a perfect metamorphose between the tunes and artwork.

Melodic rock/AOR seems the genre that most associate you with.  Obviously the band is rather melodic but how do you feel about being lumped in with other AOR bands, most of which seem to sound more classic/80’s rock in feel and sound, something you guys do include but you don’t go overboard and become corny and stale sounding?

Michael: Looking back into the history of the band, the band developed from an Indie-/Alternativeband into an AOR-band. Our first effort, “Head Over Heels” was an Alternative-album with a bit of AOR in it. At “Somewhere in America” we’ve turned that combination around, and with “Reflections”, we’ve done a pure AOR-album. It wasn’t a planned thing, I guess this is quite natural, you’re getting older, and it isn’t that interesting anymore, to play four chords with a kind of “Fuck You!”-attitude, like we did on our first album. Now we’ve dressed this “Fuck-You!”-attitude into a well produced, keyboard-oriented arrangement (laughing). I guess in 2017, you should also bring some modern approach into your sound. If it would just be me, CORNERSTONE would probably be more Eighties, but because of Steve and Alina, we‘re sounding a bit more modern, which is great. It keeps the interest from commercial radio on CORNERSTONE.

A lot of melodic rock/AOR bands have one too many ballads on their albums. Outside of maybe “Whatever”, “Reflections” doesn’t really have any ballads, is this something the band consciously avoided, to retain more of a rock edge perhaps?

Alina: I guess “Once” can also be called a ballad, but it wasn’t on purpose to avoid ballads at all. We wrote what we felt and if the spirit of the song tends to be a ballad it should be one. We don’t try to avoid ballads, we like it but we also like faster songs like “Nothing to Lose”. We just write a song and the spirit of it tells us what kind of a song it’s going to be.

Michael: I have to add, we produced one more song for “Reflections”, it‘s called “Closer”, but we‘ve decided, to pull it… the album would have been to soft then, especially with the knowledge, that “Closer” is a kind of Whitney Houston-tune, with the classical E-Piano etc., so I haven’t seen a way, to include this song. I guess “Reflections” is quite well balanced the way it is now.

Michael, you do a lot on this album when you consider you do bass, keyboards, and help out with vocals.  Do you prefer either instrument to the other?  Has there been any thought on bring in some help in the future to handle some of the excess duties or are you content with being the renaissance man, as I mentioned in the review?

Michael: I love vocal-harmonies, I love the keyboards, and I love playing Bass, so I guess that’s my job, and I love every part of it. On stage I play Bass most of the times, except for a few songs, were Alina helps out with the bass or the keyboards. That’s a positive thing, to have a singer, who can play an instrument, it’s pretty diversified. CORNERSTONE was a five piece band for a year or so in the past, but it changed the chemistry completely, and in my opinion it’s not necessary, to add someone to the Line-Up.

What is the song writing process like for CORNERSTONE?  Every one gets to put in some thoughts or is it something that is more close to the vest?  Who are the main song writers?

Alina: The songs are mainly written by Michael and Steve. Michael is very good at writing lyrics and Steve at finding the perfect guitar parts. There is just one song called “Whatever” that is written by me and Michael. About the lyrics and the feeling behind the song, Michael didn’t have to tell me anything; I knew what he was trying to say with the song by reading the lyrics only. There were no words needed. We get the inspiration from our daily life, our experiences and emotions. Of course every one of us can put in some of their own ideas.

Tell me the story behind “Enjoy this unhip, uncool, and un-sexy music!” phrase that was included in the promo copy I received?  I chuckled over that, made me like you guys before I even started listening to the songs!

Alina: Michael came up with this slogan while he was making an interview for a German magazine. He looked at the bands they were already interview and thought “every band looks quite the same as the other… how can CORNERSTONE make a difference? How can CORNERSTONE stand out?” Compared to the other bands our music stands out by being unhip and uncool and maybe unsexy, so he came up with this very good fitting slogan! (laughing) It’s of course kinda ironical, but everyone wants to check out this “unhip and uncool band” immediately, and it’s working. (laughing)

How long has everyone in the band known each other?  Alina is your third vocalist, correct?  While I was listening to your album, I just had this sense that you were all just really comfortable with each other, I could tell by “listening between the lines” that you all have a really good time doing this…

Alina: So Michael and Steve are brothers so they know each other for quite a long time now… (laughing) Christoph on drums and I joined the band about 2 years ago. We were on tour for two times now so we know each other pretty well by now, I guess.

Michael: Alina is a great and energetic singer, she sent a tape, and I thought in the first place: “This isn’t that bad”. Steve and I auditioned some interesting singers… we rehearsed with a RnB-singer, great voice, but it didn’t worked. We had an actor, who starred at an ABC-series in American TV and also do singing, who is great as a person, but it didn’t clicked musically. I was kind of frustrated and went into a Karaoke bar, to audition singers, but all of them were really bad. So I went home – it was 1:00 am in the morning – and went through Alina’s tape a second time, and listened to the other songs on it. It sounded fantastic, and the next day I called Steve and told him: “That’s the singer”. I dropped her an E-mail, started with the words “I want to cut a long story short: we want you in the band”, and so it finally happened. Very bread and butter.

Going back to Alina being newer to the band and your previous singers being women as well, is CORNERSTONE a band that you have always envisioned to have a female lead or is that just how it has worked out so far?  Honestly, I loved Alina’s vocals and hope she sticks around for a bit!

Michael: Beside of the very first months, when Steve and I shared the vocal duties, CORNERSTONE was always a female fronted band. This was the intention of our first drummer, Markus Bousska. He wanted female lead vocals and we kept that. The former singer, Patricia Hillinger, was with the band for 6 years, and she involved herself full heartedly for 5 ½ years. But, you know, people change…. you change, I change, she change, everybody change. It was a sad story, we couldn’t be in a room together anymore, and in general there was a very negative mood in the band, like a funeral party. I don’t want to go into any details, because this is a band-issue, and I would everyone ask to respect that. Instead I want to quote Brian May: “In case you don’t have to say something positive, it’s probably better, to say nothing – someone could get you wrong or so.” It was hard to ask someone to leave the band after six years, and I really can’t say that I wish her all the best for the future, but that’s history, and we are concentrating into upcoming things with the new lineup. The main thing is: everything has a good character now – also vocally ;-)

Reflections” is getting some high praise.  Has this opened any doors for the band yet?  More and bigger tours, perhaps?  Are you getting any radio play in the US?

Michael: Thx for the credits, Justin. We’ve got some US-Airplay, but mainly from College Radio. The states are quite difficult, but our main focus is of course Europe… we’ve got very good response from UK, and, interesting enough, from Belgium, although we’ve never been there, but hopefully we could do something there in the future. We’re planning a UK-Tour and maybe a US-Tour in 2018, so let’s see, what the future will bring.

Thanks for the great interview guys.  You definitely deserve your success and lets hope that US tour happens!

For more information on CORNERSTONE, check out their Facebook page.  You can watch the music video for their latest single, “Northern Lights,” below. Furthermore, their latest album “Reflections” can be purchased on ITunes and Amazon.


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